Catholics paid $36m to 600 abuse victims in Victoria

By Greg Ansley

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Australia's bid to prise open the secret world of endemic child sexual abuse in churches and other powerful institutions has stepped up a notch with revelations of the scale of perversion.

The Victorian inquiry resumed this week to admissions, contrition and apologies from the Catholic Church, which said it had paid A$30 million ($36 million) in compensation to about 600 victims of deviant priests in the state.

Next week the New South Wales special commission of inquiry will open its hearings in Newcastle, north of Sydney, in the diocese that triggered both the state inquiry and the federal royal commission into abuse of children in the care of religious, government and other institutions.

A key focus of the NSW hearings will be the late, defrocked priest Denis McAlinden, whose long-term abuse of dozens of children was known to the church but hidden as he was shuffled between Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, where he worked at Tokomaru Bay near Gisborne.

McAlinden - whose predecessor was later convicted of child sexual abuse - was central to investigations by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, the whistleblower policeman who sabotaged his career by making public alleged cover-ups by the Church. The inquiry has taken evidence from New Zealand and PNG, which the federal royal commission is also expected to gather.

McAlinden was moved overseas and between NSW and Western Australia, where he was accused but not convicted of abusing Aboriginal children left in his unsupervised care despite Church knowledge of his sexual history.

In Victoria, the Church insurer Catholic Church Insurance told the state inquiry that its A$30 million payout had been made mainly to victims of abuse between the 1960s and 1980s, but that it had never provided cover for priests proven to have sexually assaulted children.

The Church also denied ever interfering in or obstructing police investigations, despite earlier police evidence that a priest who was under investigation had been tipped off by its complaints section.

But other evidence was damning.

In Ballarat, Church officials knew by 1975 that priest Gerald Ridsdale was a paedophile, but allowed him to continue working.

Ridsdale was later twice convicted for child sexual abuse, and moved to different parishes.

The Catholic Order of Salesians of Don Bosco, which works with homeless and at-risk youths, and runs schools and boys' clubs, said it had paid more than A$2 million in compensation to abuse victims and had 49 complaints against its priests in Victoria, three of whom will face courts this year. The Brothers of St John of God said it had received 31 cases of abuse by 15 members.

- NZ Herald

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